By Christian Brown | July 22, 2015
Someone asked me last week if I regretted my decision to come out as a gay Christian.
While my answer was “no,” I do mourn the fact that choosing to chronicle my 16-year journey of sexuality and faith has altered my life permanently.
Good friends no longer text me. My worship ministry has been sidelined. And overnight, I’ve become a polarizing figure to many of the Christians I know.
Since my blog post was published in June, I’ve received more than 100 personal messages via text, Facebook, and even WhatsApp that have expressed everything from praise and approval to shock and disappointment.
As I expected, the most passionate responses came from fellow Christians who accused me of “growing weary in well-doing,” “intently defaming the Church,” and “trying to change an immutable God.”
One person even told me that my choice to come out was synonymous to “Adolf Hitler saying that it’s morally okay to kill millions of Jews.” Ouch.
But perhaps the most interesting response in all this has been my own.
While I posted the blog with joy and anticipation, it didn’t take long for feelings of fear, anger, and resentment to spring up in that order.
Bearing my soul in public put my heart on a roller coaster ride that is still hurdling upside down. But with each day, my choice to come out is vindicated as people’s reactions have proven to me why more transparent conversations need to happen around this topic.
So let’s start a conversation right now. I’ll begin by telling you the three things I learned since coming out as a gay Christian.
1. The word “gay” is a loaded term that Christians interpret differently.
And it’s not surprising. “Gay” has taken on many meanings in its fairly young life. A word that once referred to the state of being “happy” and “carefree” (Remember the Gay Nineties?), now signifies much more.
We all know what “homosexual” means – a person who is sexually attracted to the same sex. Duh. But on the day I came out, I found that many Christians believe taking on the moniker “gay” means you are not just attracted to the same sex. It means you are actively pursuing sexual relationships and choosing your identity as an LGBT person over your identity in Christ.
“You should have said you struggle with same-sex attractions,” one person told me. “Because you’re not gay.”
Interestingly enough, they weren’t the only Christian who took issue with the label I used.
For those outside of the Church, this may seem like a petty argument, but for Christians the word “gay” is a complicated, monolithic term that defines how you’ll be living, not just who you’re attracted to.
But in an era where coming out is a norm in middle school not middle age, I believe the Church can no longer assume that “gay” equates sexual activity. In fact, it’s possible for a homosexual Christian to accept the label of gay and be completely celibate.
Wesley Hill, author of “Washed and Waiting,” is a celibate gay Christian who encourages any believer wrestling with homosexuality to remain chaste. Nevertheless, he believes it’s healthy for individuals (and the Church) if homosexual Christians call themselves what they truly are – gay.
Likewise, Pastor Tim Otto is the author of “Oriented to Faith” and is a celibate gay Christian that speaks on this topic at his church in San Francisco. While he does not engage in homosexual behavior, he is comfortable calling himself gay and is working to end the cultural war over sexuality by building common ground between LGBT-affirming Christians and non-affirming.
I spent 16 years tormented over labels.
Because of fervent Church teachings and the loaded connotations of the label “gay,” I told myself for 16 years that I was a straight man struggling with same-sex attractions. While it’s laughable to think of now, I spent countless days facilitating a war of identity that pinned myself against — myself.
I’m not talking about lust here, but an internal conflict between my label as a Christian (which demanded I not identify as gay) and my sexuality (which said I liked other men.)
That constant wrestle was neither healthy nor did it aid me in growing closer to the Lord. My advice? Let’s end the old stereotypes around the word “gay.”
The demographics of the LGBT community are beginning to change around us. It’s time for the Church to reevaluate the stigmatization around this three-letter word and embrace it as an identity that many devoted followers of Christ accept.
2. Christians carry around a lot of secrets. And it’s killing us.
I expected to hear a lot of things after coming out. Outrage. Pride. Remorse. But one thing I didn’t anticipate hearing were secrets.
Over the last several weeks, I’ve heard heartbreaking stories of guilt and shame from many people I consider close friends. I have not adequate time to detail the frustrations I read regarding addictions to pornography, struggles with past molestation, and honest realizations of homophobia.
A few people even shared that they are bisexual, but are afraid to tell other Christians for fear of rejection.
What I said to all of these men and women, I will also state here:
“Shame and secrecy are silent killers in the Church today.
Unfortunately, we promote a Christian image that doesn’t show the reality of true life for many people. We preach hard against sexual sin to the point where those dealing with these issues fear to come forward and receive the true healing they need.
James 5:16 says “Confess your faults to one another and pray for each other, that you may be healed.”
Instead of encouraging a culture of confession and openness about all the faults we struggle with, the rhetoric of many preachers today disparages us from even bringing it up.
The Church has become a war zone over social issues. But the sad reality is that innocent people are being caught in the middle of it.”
Whether Christians agree on these issues or not, let’s agree that our churches must become safe spaces for people to talk freely about their lives without gossip, backbiting, and mockery.
Several weeks ago, I attended a Friday night bible study for Christians who say they are “struggling with same-sex attractions.” It was less of a church service and more of an open forum for people to talk openly about their lives. While I did not share my story during the meeting, I sat back and listened as people talked about isolation, loneliness, depression, and frustration.
“Why is this meeting happening in a back office?,” I thought. “This dialogue should be happening on Sunday morning in front of the congregation.”
I’m learning more now than ever that Christians are hurting alone. And the Church must recognize that the only way forward is to pull the hurting out of the shadows and bear these burdens together. It’s the only way we’ll all be healed.
3. True friends always got your back.
And it’s probably the most Christ-like response you could have after someone comes out to you.
The night before my blog was published on Facebook, I met privately for six hours with my closest five friends.
They had already read my blog and this was a time for them to hear more of my story, ask questions, and consider the status of our friendship going forward.
Sitting around on comfy sofas drinking Dr. Pepper and eating Pronto Pizza turned out to be the best coming out party I could have asked for.
They did not pelt me with scriptures or yell in my face. There were no heated arguments or signs of homophobia. Instead, I felt a resonance of regret.
My Christian brothers cried because they weren’t there for me.
They wept knowing that their best friend was living a life of emotional torture beside them and they didn’t know about it.
Did they agree with my theological arguments? No. Would they find it acceptable if I dated a man? No.
But, they didn’t let that stop them from loving me.
Jesus taught that “by this will they know you are My disciples, even your love towards one another.”
He didn’t say people would discern Christians based off of biblical knowledge or church attendance. No, love is the indicator. Sacrificial love.
I know it was uncomfortable for my friends to have this conversation with me. It opened up past wounds for some and prompted theological reexamination in others, but I applaud these men because they did not run from the discussion.
Too often today, Christians opt out of the discussion for fear of looking weak or passive. It’s easy to throw stones and mock. What’s tough is putting your reputation on the line to love someone society says is unclean. But when the time came, what did Jesus do?
In John 8: 1-11, the teachers of the law brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus.
“The Law of Moses says to stone her, but what do you say?,” they asked.
Jesus stooped down and at first refused to answer, but they persisted so he said, “He, who is without sin, cast the first stone.”
When no one stoned her, Jesus told the woman to “go and sin no more,” but ensured her that he did not revile her.
Jesus is a righteous judge that always deals in grace before judgment. That’s the line every Christian should walk if someone ever tells you “I’m gay.”
Despite the menagerie of responses I received, I was fortunate to learn that the people placed in my life already had this revelation.
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